***RECOMMENDED*** Just in time for a good-time Halloween haunting comes the newest show from those zany folks at Hell in a Handbag Productions, “The Facts of Life: Satan’s School for Girls.” This musical parody (book and lyrics by David Cerda and music by Cerda and Andrew Milliken) is loosely based upon the long-running 1980s sit-com. “The Facts of Life” was surprisingly NBC’s highest rated program during the early ‘80s and the wildly popular show, which featured multiple characters who were students at a private school for girls and the slightly dowdy but lovable matron who cared for them, inexplicably ran for eight seasons. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Lyric Opera of Chicago has launched their 65th season with a massively entertaining production of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." While this may be the 16th time that Lyric has presented this work -- it was featured as the second opera of their inaugural season -- it is only the first time that long-time Music Director Sir Andrew Davis has actually conducted it here. And that's significant. With him on the podium there is clearly no doubt that the pacing will consistently and perfectly drive the frivolity forward. From the iconic and instantly-recognizable overture to the delightfully ebullient finale Davis expertly guides this production. Add in the first-rate cast and incredible design elements and the result is as nearly perfect a version of this opera that you will ever have the pleasure to experience. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** Arthur Schnitzler would probably be truly shocked to learn that his 1897 play "La Ronde" has influenced multiple generations of artists who have created a nearly countless amount of theatrical and cinematic output which are based upon it. The simple concept of his legendary work documents 10 random individuals who meet and physically connect, starting with a whore and a soldier, for a casual sexual experience and then depart to engage with their next conquest. The soldier moves on to hook-up with a nurse, who in turn encounters a college boy and tends to his carnal desires and so on until we circle back to the whore at the conclusion. The idea has been utilized in nearly twenty films (the most famous being made in France and Germany in the 1950s and early '60s), a chamber opera as well as being the inspiration of Susan Stroman's Tony Award-winning 2000 musical "Contact." Four gay versions exist for the stage, with all of the characters played by male actors -- one of which, with a profanity-laced title -- played at Pride Films and Plays in 2018. Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre is carrying on the tradition by presenting Michael John LaChiusa's take on the subject with his 1993 musical version "Hello Again." 3 SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** Cambridge University, while largely recognized as one of the world's best academic institutions for obtaining a solid education, has never really been considered a particularly progressive place of study. In the hundreds of years of its history (well over 700), it finally allowed women to enroll as students in 1869, with the foundation of Girton College, created specifically for the bright and fiercely driven women who desired a level of higher learning. While these women were allowed to study, there was no formal degree that they were granted upon the completion of their course work, unlike their male counterparts. This historical injustice is explored in Promethean Theatre Ensemble's Chicago premiere of playwright Jessica Swale's "Blue Stockings," a highly entertaining and refreshingly enlightening play. 3 AND 1/2 SPOTLIGHTS
Highly Recommended ***** I have often said that when Janet Ulrich Brooks is in a play, any play, anywhere, I will make sure that I am in the house. I love watching her work! No matter the characters she is asked to play, they are always played to perfection. That is pretty much proved again in her latest triumph, “Tiny Beautiful Things” based on the book by Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos.
Somewhat Recommended ** Often, when one adapts a classic work, those familiar with the original have a difficult time following the new and modern version. On The Spot Theatre Company is a brave, fairly new company that dares to be creative with classic works. Their current production, now on the upstairs Studio at The Greenhouse Theater Center is a U.S. Premiere of “Sons and Lovers”, based on the novel by D.H.Lawrence. which has been adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick.
Somewhat Recommended ** Most of you know that I am for the “little guy” and try to help them as much as humanly possible. Haven Theatre, recently rebranded as “HAVEN” and they are working out of The Den Theater complex on Milwaukee Avenue. They are concluding their 2018-2019 season with a “Chicago Premiere” entitled “KISS” that is more of a bold theatrical experience than an evening of pure entertainment.